Is it legal for a doctor not to tell a cancer patient they are terminal?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022Fact Checked

Get Legal Help Today

Compare Quotes From Top Companies and Save

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Is it legal for a doctor not to tell a cancer patient they are terminal?

We were led to believe, even when lab results were progressively getting worse, that there was still great hope to overcome this disease. Then 2 weeks, weeks prior to death, a new type of chemo was started by the oncologist. Had they told us that the cancer was terminal, we would have tried to improve quality of life within those 2 week probably longer.

Asked on April 26, 2017 under Malpractice Law, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

There is no firm guidance on this point: it is up to the discretion of the doctor, as long as he/she is acting in accordance with generally accepted standards of care, in the patient's interests. There is a difference of opinion on this subject: some doctors feel that you have to be open and transparent, so that patients can settle their affairs, have a chance for closure or accomplish their "bucket list," etc. Other doctors feel that by lying or hiding the severity, you keep the patient's morale and spirits up, which can boost the immune system and health and increase the chance of overcoming the disease, or at least living longer. Since there is a legitimate difference of medical opinion about this, it is not likely wrong for your doctor to have done what he/she did.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption